The Lord's Supper, also referred to as Holy Communion,
is one of two ordinances which Jesus gave to the church (the other being
water baptism). Its practice is exercised in virtually all Christian
churches in varying frequency — perhaps as often as every service or only
one service a month. The origin of the practice begins with Christ's Last
Supper with his disciples, the evening before his trial and execution. The
following text is taken from Paul's account of the event, and is the most
frequent passage used in its association:
1 Cor. 11:24 "...and when He had given thanks, He
broke it and said, Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do
this in remembrance of Me.
The Lord's Supper originated as a meal of fellowship
between Jesus and disciples, the evening before his trial and execution.
This, however, was not a typical meal, but was an event of symbolic
significance. It was Thursday of the calendar week of the Passover feast in
Israel, which was a commemoration of the death angel's passing over the
Hebrew children in Egypt. During that historic event nearly fifteen hundred
years earlier, each family obediently sacrificed a lamb for a meal and wiped
its blood on their doorposts, which resulted in their national origin and
deliverance from slavery (Ex. 12:1-51).
The Lord's Supper was a Passover meal, in which Jesus
portrayed Himself as the Lamb of the Passover. He showed that by partaking
of His sacrifice by faith, with His blood wiped spiritually on the doorposts
of one's heart, death will pass over, bringing deliverance from sin and
everlasting life in the promised land.
During his supper with his disciples, Jesus used bread
and the "fruit of the vine," as symbols of his body and blood which were
soon to be rendered as an atonement for sin. He broke off portions from the
unleavened bread and offered them to His disciples to eat, saying, "This is
My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me." Later, he
shared with them a common cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My
blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me" (1 Cor.
As the Passover feast was established as an
everlasting memorial for the Jew, Jesus proclaimed his last supper as an
ordinance for His followers — a memorial supper to be observed until His
return. "This do... in remembrance of me... For as often as you eat this
bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes" (1
Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper as a continual
practice for His followers for several reasons, of which here are four:
(1) To remember His suffering & Covenant
(1 Cor. 11:24-25). Jesus did not want His followers to grow forgetful of the
great sacrifice He paid for them, and the incredible testament of salvation
which we received.
(2) To Proclaim His death till He returns
(1 Cor. 11:26). The enactment of this supper, to be repeated over and over,
continually emphasized the essential fact of His death, portrayed the
reasons why, and served as a reminder of His second coming.
(3) To take self examination of our lives
(1 Cor. 11:28). Jesus instituted this supper as a very holy moment, for us
to consider the state of our own heart before God. As we approach the
sacredness of His body and blood, we weigh our heart against the awesomeness
of His sacrifice. In this humble state, any faults, imperfections and sins
come to realization, allowing us to confess them and obtain His forgiveness
(1 John 1:9).
(4) To discern or recognize the Lord's body
(1 Cor. 11:29). Discernment of the Lord's body is one of the most remarkable
truths in the Bible. Jesus served His disciples bread and wine as symbols of
the divine merger which took place between Himself (His sufferings) and His
followers. By becoming one with Jesus, we merge into one body, which brings
about a unique effect: His body becomes ours, and our body becomes His.
Christ's followers are enabled to appropriate the substitution of His body
in the place of their own on the cross, while they substitute their body in
the place of His on the earth.
Discernment of the Lord's body first brings
recognition to how He became "our" body of sin for us, suffering and dying
as the substitute for our sins. Peter wrote that Jesus "bore our sins in His
own body on the tree..." (1 Pet. 2:24), and Paul said, God "...made Him who
knew no sin to be sin for us..." (2 Cor. 5:21). Secondly, it also takes in
account how that all believers become "His" body here on the earth. Paul
wrote, "Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually" (1 Cor.
12:27). Later, to the church of Ephesus he said, "For we are members of His
body, of His flesh and of His bones" (Eph. 5:30). Paul also said our body is
God's temple, that His Holy Spirit dwells in every believer (1 Cor. 3:16).
How important it is for believers to fully discern
both elements of Christ's body. Jesus gave a solemn warning that to partake
of the sacredness of the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner, perhaps with
unconfessed sin in our lives or without a proper estimation of the Lord's
body, would make us guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. He also
explained that some may become sickly or die prematurely, because they have
not properly discerned the Lord's body (1 Cor. 11:29).
Christ's strength and blessing is connected with the
value we place on this divine merger between His bodily sufferings, and His
body, the church. This is consistent with other scripture, where Jesus made
it clear that He combined His identity with the church. In fact, He views
any actions toward His people, as actions toward Himself, saying that
whatever we do for the "least" of our brethren, we have done it unto Him
(Matt. 25:40). Elsewhere, other passages confirm that a right relationship
with Christ is not possible without a right relationship with our Christian
brothers. John wrote, "If someone says, I love God, and hates his brother,
he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can
he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him:
that he who loves God must love his brother also" (1 John 4:20-21).
Furthermore, how is it possible to separate Christ's
sufferings from the people for which He suffered? Since "the value of
anything is established by what it can be traded for," Jesus clearly
expressed His value upon God's people by redeeming them with the price of
His own life and sufferings. To Jesus, His people are equal to His shed
blood and broken body. He views them equally as precious, and dwells in them
by His Spirit, making them the body of His hands, fingers and toes through
which He ministers in this world (1 Cor. 12:12-27).
Considering these facts, there may be times that
Christians have lacked God's strength and healing, either because they
failed to discern the atonement of Christ's bodily sufferings in their
behalf, or because they did not properly love or value their brethren — the
body of Christ. This may explain why the contemporary church has lacked
strength, or not risen to its full potential in our world, because in many
cases it has tried to value His sufferings without appreciating the whole
body of Christ — including His children of different congregations or
As we partake in the Lord's Supper and consider
Christ's precious sufferings, let us also examine our discernment of His
body, the church. Do we love the least of our brothers in our fellowship? Do
we harbor grudges or unforgiveness? Do we discern the body of Christ in our
neighboring congregations? Do we esteem them and love them as a part of the
family of God? Jesus said they are His body — they are the great treasure
for which He traded His life, they are in whom He dwells by His Spirit. And
whatever value we place upon them, is the value we place upon Christ.
"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, being many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread" (1 Cor. 10:16-17).